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38 Imaginary Friends From Fiction and the Life Advice They Provide

Did you have an imaginary friend (or a whole band of merry imaginary companions) growing up? According to decades of research, the majority of people have had an imaginary friend at some point in their childhood. But are imaginary friends a cause for concern?

Generally, no. Clinical psychologist Kate Eshleman, Psy.D., of the Cleveland Clinic explains: “Children might use an imaginary friend to replay or work through things they experience in life. It’s a way to help them practice social skills and process things they see. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your child.” 

What Are Examples of Imaginary Friends? Imaginary friends can be anything from a very real stuffed animal that a child roleplays with to a complete figment of their imagination. The possibilities are as endless as the human mind! 

To showcase the wonderful range of forms that imaginary friends can take, the AAA State of Play team have put together a collection of iconic imaginary friends from fiction. It’s a celebration of creativity, storytelling, and pretend play! We have included imaginary friends from books, movies, TV shows, and video games.

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It was challenging to find inspirational quotes from fictional characters who are also fictional to other fictional characters, but we love the ones we found and hope you do, too! Here are a few of the most iconic imaginary friends we have included:

  • Imaginary friend from Arthur — Nadine Flumberghast
  • Imaginary friend from Sesame Street — Mr. Snuffleupagus (although it turned out he wasn’t so imaginary after all!) 
  • The volleyball in Castaway — Wilson
  • Imaginary friend from Inside Out — Bing Bong 
  • Imaginary friend from A Beautiful Mind — Charles 
  • Imaginary friend from Donnie Darko — Frank the Bunny
  • Imaginary friend from Calvin and Hobbes — Hobbes
  • Imaginary friend from Memoirs of an Imaginary Best Friend — Budo 
  • Blue guy from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends — Bloo
  • Imaginary chef from Ratatouille — Auguste Gusteau

Is it Normal to Have an Imaginary Friend?

According to Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., Psy.D., on Healthline, having an imaginary friend, sometimes referred to as an imaginary companion, is considered “a normal or even healthy part of childhood play.” Most research has consistently supported that having imaginary friends is a natural part of childhood for many children. 

How Many Children Have Imaginary Friends?

If you are concerned about your child having an imaginary friend, the good news is that studies have shown that the majority of children enjoy imaginary companionship. A study of 152 preschoolers discovered that 65% of children up to the age of 7 had imaginary friends. In fact, not only are imaginary friends common, but they have been found to be enriching for development.

How Are Imaginary Friends Beneficial?

Three years after the study, 100 children were retested to assess the developmental course of play with imaginary friends and how engaging in these types of pretend play related to emotional understanding, personality, and self-perception. The results showed that these children, now of school age, continued to play with and impersonate imaginary characters just as much as preschoolers. School-age children who did not have imaginary characters or impersonate make-believe characters scored lower in emotional understanding. Children with imaginary companions were also found to be less shy, laugh more with peers, and be able to better imagine how someone else might think or feel. The benefits of imaginary friends also include helping children learn about the environment, express their feelings, practice social skills, manage stressful life changes, and solve dilemmas that may be beyond a child’s complete comprehension. 

What Is the Psychology Behind Imaginary Friends?

In 2017, researchers pinpointed these five primary purposes for why children have imaginary friends:

  • Problem-solving and emotion management
  • Having a companion for fantasy play
  • Helping to overcome loneliness 
  • Allowing children to explore relationship behaviors and roles
  • Exploring ideals 

This study also found that around 60% of children had one or more imaginary friends — 67% took on a human form, and 19% took on an animal form. 

What Causes Imaginary Friends?

In most cases, imaginary friends are simply a part of growing, active, and curious minds. It is a common misconception that imaginary friends are born as a protective response to trauma (this may be true in some cases, which we will explore later). However, more often than not, imaginary friends are simply a manifestation of a child’s blossoming imagination and creativity. Their arrival often coincides with the development of imagination. Dr. Karen Majors, a psychologist at the Institute of Education at University College London, states: “It’s about time we did away with the feeling that these children are in the minority or have any kind of mental health problems. Pretend play helps them use their imagination to explore things that are important to them or to help themselves feel better about something. This is all good for their cognitive, emotional and social development.” 

Another misconception about imaginary friends is that children who create them are more lonely and shy than others. In reality, they tend to be highly social and creative

Overall, imaginary friends are generally just another form of pretend play. Pretend play is deeply enriching and valuable in many ways, so let those imaginations run wild. By asking questions about the imaginary friend, you could learn more about your child’s current interests, fears, wishes, and concerns.

When Are Imaginary Friends a Problem?

According to WebMD, warning signs that imaginary friends may be negatively affecting your child and their development include: 

  • Extreme anxiety around peers
  • Repeatedly telling imaginary friends about traumatic experiences in detail
  • Blaming imaginary friends for their own hurtful and unacceptable actions 
  • Fear of the imaginary friend
  • Unexplained changes in your child’s sleeping or eating habits
  • Having an imaginary friend beyond age 12

If your child is exhibiting these signs, it is important to get in touch with their doctor. Changes are a natural part of development, but there could be psychological issues at play. 

38 Imaginary Friends From Fiction (and the Life Advice They Provide)





Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

“Imaginary friends are like books. We're created, we're enjoyed, we're dog-eared and creased, and then we're tucked away until we're needed again.” 


The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat


Memoirs of an Imaginary Best Friend by Matthew Dicks 

“Monsters are bad things, but monsters that do not walk and talk like monsters are the worst.” 


Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer 


Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson 

“If good things lasted forever, would we appreciate how precious they are?” 


Clara and Asha by Eric Rohmann 


Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne 

“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been.”


Jessica by Kevin Henkes


Ted by Tony DiTerlizzi 


The Bear by Raymond Briggs

Dream Friend 

Dream Friends by You Byun


We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich

TV + Animation 


Dexter’s Laboratory

Barney the Dinosaur

Barney & Friends

“Hello again to all my friends. I'm glad you came to play. Our fun and learning never ends. Here's what we did today!”


Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends

Nadine Flumberghast


Mr. Snuffleupagus

Sesame Street


Ed, Edd n Eddy


Paranoia Agent




The Wild Things

Where the Wild Things Are

“Inside all of us is hope. Inside all of us is fear. Inside all of us is adventure. Inside all of us is a wild thing.”


When Marnie Was There

“I can’t expect myself to change in one day ... but one day is a good place to start.” 

Auguste Gusteau


“If you focus on what you left behind, you will never see what lies ahead!”

The Monster

A Monster Calls

“You do not write your life with words … you write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.” 



Bing Bong

Inside Out


A Beautiful Mind

“Nothing’s ever for sure, John. That’s the only sure thing I do know.” 


The Shining

Frank the Bunny 

Donnie Darko

Eric Cantona

Looking for Eric

“The noblest revenge is to forgive.” 

Tyler Durden

Fight Club

“This is your life, and it’s ending one moment at a time.”


Drop Dead Fred

“Look, you’ve got you now. You don’t need me.”



Captain Excellent

Paper Man

Jack Flack 

Cloak & Dagger

Video Games


Finding Paradise

“There’s a lot waiting for you, Colin. I can’t promise that it will be all good, and I can’t promise that you won’t have regrets. But what you will have ... you wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.” 

Imaginary Friend 

The Sims 3


My Friend Pedro

Related: Playground rubber mulch, playground surfaces and playground flooring, playground merry-go-rounds, and playground slides.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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